El Poder de Machín

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Amparanoia's debut album falls firmly in the new European mix mold popularized by Manu Chao, but a strong set of songs and Amparo Sánchez's authoritative vocals establish a distinct identity. The jumping-off point for the group's well-structured songs and spare arrangements on El Poder De Machín isn't ska or reggae, but Latin music -- for instance, the percussion section uses congas, bongos, and the flamenco <|>cajon instead of a regular drum kit. Bright horns, propulsive rhythms, and catchy chorus hooks drive festive numbers like "La Semana" and "En la Noche," the latter the first sign of the multi-lingualism (the verses are delivered in Spanish, French, and English) that is a natural part of Amparanoia's style. But the Latin influence extends beyond salsa adaptations -- "Que te Den" and "Mi Amor Se Fue" have Mexican roots, the latter starting off as a boozy cantina lament with accordion before a mid-song shift to an up-tempo celebratory romp. Sánchez's blues-singing background comes into play on "Moreno," and Robert Johnson's electric guitar solos here and on "Me Lo Hago Solo" have a bluesy tinge. Even though the Manu Chao influence is evident -- his "Sidi Beach" anticipates the sound of Clandestino and the Sánchez/Chao collaboration "Buen Rollito" (aka "Welcome to Tijuana") makes its first appearance here -- El Poder de Machín clearly bears Amparanoia's creative stamp. And the main source of that identity is the personality projected through the powerful voice of Amparo -- a voice that sounds good-hearted and generous, open and inviting.

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